The Proof of the Pudding is in the Eating (cont’d)
Saturday arrived, and with it a flurry of activity as the two contenders arrived at the pub with crates of ingredients The food critic had agreed to be the chief taster, along with some villagers, chosen at random earlier that morning.
At noon, the critic entered the kitchen, blew the whistle and the competition began. Laurel applied herself to the job in hand, whilst Igor cast intimidating stares in her direction, continually sharpening his knives with somewhat menacing dexterity.
Knowing Igor’s once celebrated pastry skills, she settled on a 14th century dessert, Frytour blaunched, Almond-filled pastries baked in honey & wine; more was at stake than just ownership of the menus, toppling Igor from his self-constructed pedestal with a winning dessert took priority now.
Igor watched on as she deftly handled the sweet dough and crafted delectable parcels from them, and winced with painful appreciation when the aroma of her sauce tickled his nostrils. Despite days of solitary investigation – and several empty bottles – nothing as imaginative had inspired him, instead he opted for a simple stew-like dish, expecting to dazzle the judges with expert seasoning and depth of flavour.
‘Taste is more important than pretty little parcels,’ he said, with a snicker as he casually brushed past Laurel on his way to use the oven.
‘Phew Igor, drinking again?’ she asked, as his alcohol-drenched breath choked her.
‘Child, I am a skilled artiste, your words do not make my boots shake’ he replied, to which Laurel could only giggle at his mixed metaphors.
‘Time’s up!’ said the critic, blowing his whistle, and the contestants placed their finished dishes onto plates labelled ‘A’ and ‘B’, both scrutinising the other’s serving. The plates were taken to the judge’s table for the verdict. From behind the kitchen door, both Laurel and Igor vied for position to view proceedings, unable to attend in person to avoid perverting the outcome in some way.
Plate ‘A’ was presented for tasting and, despite encouraging “oohs” and “ahs” from the crowd, the tasters remained impassive, each taking a single mouthful before writing down their comments. After a swift sip of water, they moved onto plate ‘B’. Then, without any clues as to the victor, the tasters huddled together to swap notes.
Finally, the food critic stood, coughed to clear his throat and, in a rather adenoidal voice, announced, ‘We have a winner!’ The audience cheered, Laurel and Igor jostled each other as they exited the kitchen, making their way to stand before the judges. Laurel smiled confidently whilst Igor adopted his usual self-assured stance, thrusting his ample chest outward like a puffed-up canary. ‘Ladies and gentlemen, the winner is plate ‘A’, will the creator of this delightful dish please step forward.’
Neither contestant moved, but exchanged mystified glances with the pub-owner, who stepped forward and whispered in the critic’s ear. He reddened and coughed again, ‘the victorious dish is the delicious almond pastry dessert.’ Laurel’s hand flew to her chest as she gasped and staggered forward to accept the rapturous acclaim of the villagers.